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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Le Deck: At Sea in the City
As summer is upon us, we city folk dream fondly of the sea, don stylishly nautical apparel and crave the open waters of the Mediterranean or the Red Sea. Le Deck, the floating-dock restaurant lounge at the Sofitel Gezira Hotel, is the perfect place for some Nile-side, laid-back indulgence.
As a bonus for those in search of some waterfront relaxation, Le Deck does not draw the crowds and noise of other Nile-side venues. Rather, it is open and airy, and the fans keep you cool and happy as you sample appetisers, order a fresh juice or tuck into a dessert.
You must pass through the lobby and out of the back of the hotel to reach the restaurant, which provides a quiet sanctuary. Gently floating on the Nile and anchored to the banks of the Sofitel garden, the venue is a world away from the glitz and glam of Buddha Bar, though the occasional strobe light flash can be spotted from floors above.
Le Deck is truly lovely, with large white chairs and ornate oriental lanterns creating an exotic feel without overwhelming guests with over-the-top decor. The venue gently rocks to and fro as boats pass by, and diners can spot the occasional felucca sparkling away in the distance at night. Suitable for both larger groups and intimate gatherings, the atmosphere can fit a romantic evening or social night out with friends.
The menu boasts predominately oriental favourites and offers a wide range of warm and cold mezzas. The hummus is rich and smooth, the salad crisp and the freshest of fresh. The grilled options are sensational: the shish tawook is excellently cooked and accompanied by sweet vegetables and crisp potato wedges; while the kofta arrives hot off the grill and is spiced to perfection.
While the food is nothing ground-breaking– you'll find no fusion sensation or exotic cuisine here– it is reliable and tasty. However, be prepared for a minimum of up to 200LE per person to apply when booking for groups of ten or more. While it’s easy to forget as you lounge in the open air, you are still at one of Cairo's upper-echelon hotels, and luxury comes at a price. For smaller parties, expect to pay around 300LE for a moderate meal for two.
Le Deck is a perfect summer night getaway when you are looking for a relaxing alternative to both a wild night out on the town and the café scene. Most importantly, it captures a rare waterside peace while not being overly pretentious or tourist-packed.
The importance of location in defining a restaurant’s theme and making it an overall more alluring experience for Cairene diners can never be stressed enough. Making use of exactly that, Eat and Barrel has been making waves on the Giza Corniche, offering visitors an almost panoramic view of the Nile.
With white wooden tables and low, comfy cushion-laden chairs and sofas, the dim lighting, soft, breezy music combined with plants pots and bottles hanging from the ceiling, Eat and Barrel boasts a slight bohemian, beach vibe and demurely refreshing summery air. Serving as both a bar and a restaurant, Eat & Barrel does what few venues have succeeding in doing, by finding a comfortable middle-ground between both; the owners put as much effort in pushing the venue as a casual hang-out spot, as they do in holding DJ-based nightlife events.
Leading us to our previously reserved table, our waiter handed us menus in no time. Cuisine-wise, Eat and Barrel focuses on staples and favourites and stays away from any truly experimental dishes. Soups, salads, burgers, pastas, steaks, fried and grilled chicken dishes and some seafood offerings alongside an assortment of desserts pretty much sum up the menu. Cocktails, shots and shisha are all also offered.
Opting for a couple of shishas to kick off our meal, we went for Blueberry and Vanilla-Coconut flavours (35LE each). Arriving only five minutes after they were ordered, our shishas were light and wispy with the flavours having just the right amount of intensity. Our rumbling stomachs quickly led us to go for the Crunchy Melt Burger (65 LE) and the Classic Chicken Fettucine Alfredo (63 LE), swapping the fettucine pasta with penne.
Similarly, the main courses took little-to-no time to arrive after that, and were as much of a pretty sight for the eyes as they were a treat for the taste buds. The Crunchy Melt Burger came in the form of two gigantic bread buns enveloping a well-cooked beef patty topped with fried mozzarella sticks and beef bacon and tasted absolutely sinful. We would have, however, preferred the buns to be a bit more toasted and slightly crunchier. The sides of salad and French fries were quite lovely, yet were overshadowed by the massive burger.
The pasta came in penne form, as requested, and was drenched in perhaps the lightest white Alfredo sauce we’ve had in a while and topped with an ample amount of grilled chicken chunks. It was scrumptious yet thankfully still not too overwhelmingly heavy, as the classic dish usually tends to be.
The service deserves praise, too; the waiters were extremely alert, efficient, friendly and accurately described the dishes to us and were always nearby to take any orders.
All in all, Eat and Barrel lives up to its hype, outdoing itself with delectable dishes, on-point service and an invigoratingly simplistic ambiance complemented with a picturesque view of the Nile. Sure the prices may be a bit steep, considering the 150 LE minimum charge on weekends, but the aforementioned perks are, in our humble opinion, worth paying extra for.